Spoiler alert: at a point in this movie, a Special Forces operator gangster grips a Beretta at Jesus’s face and shoots him in the head.
This is a real scene, a scene from an ambitious and likely totally serious Evangelical Christian attempt at an action thriller. Fellow writer Burnt Orange recently stumbled upon this hidden gem and suggested we watch it. As fans of “trash movies”, i.e., movies that are unintentionally hilarious (a la The Room), we were hoping this obscure rarity in Christian sci-fi cinema would fall in the same category. Thankfully, we were not disappointed. Both he and I were shocked beyond belief at what unfolded before our eyes, dying of laughter throughout most of the run time. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I would consider the level of entertainment in Assassin 33 AD to be a blessing from Him.
This checks all the boxes that a stereotypical ultra-ignorant white Christian suburban culture could have conceived for a “church friendly” take on the sci-fi genre, undoubtedly influenced by the only other work of fiction in this category, the Left Behind saga, and the effects are gloriously garbage. The villains here are Arab Muslims, (played here by Mexican stand-ins as I’m sure finding acquiescent Arabs was a challenge), whose goal it is to force a bunch of nerdy college science students to invent a time machine to go back and kill Jesus. Yes, literally kill Jesus. A point is made, to the screenwriters’ credit, that Muslims do in fact believe Jesus is a holy prophet. We are given a garbled explanation that makes no sense from the main Muslim villain. When they succeed, as alluded to earlier, it is up to our band of underemployed 30 year olds (or, *cough cough*, “Brilliant College Students”) to go back in time and make things right. Along the way, our protagonist, ‘Generic White Man Who Believes in Science Over God’, learns to find faith in Jesus from his fellow cohort, consisting of ‘Black Stereotype’, ‘Socially Inept Asian’, and ‘Hot Ethnically Ambiguous Smart Chick’, while discovering spiritual guidance through the mysterious workings of The Lord.
Fear thee not, because this movie isn’t completely overshadowed by generic stereotypes. Assassin 33 AD actually has a semblance of plot, and a certain level of unexpected intrigue. Aiding the main villains is a Special Forces war veteran who hates God after his family dies in a car crash (the portrayal of which is absolute gold), and his arc is actually interesting. Jason Castro, the popular American Idol contestant from I don’t know how many years ago, plays Jesus, and is somehow subtly hilarious at times. Ultimately, the film goes down a seemingly pointless rabbit hole, that results in actually being a pretty clever, albeit absurd plot twist. There is ironically a good amount of attempt at suspense and legitimate comedy that provides a healthy balance to the laughable garbage thrown at the audience otherwise. There’s also a post credit scene, which made my jaw drop like no other of it’s kind. In the midst of legitimately bad films flooding Netflix, Assassin 33 AD became the saving grace of quarantine entertainment.
This is made to be a general intro for Assassin 33 AD to let me share some initial thoughts. Burnt Orange wrote some of his initial thoughts here as well. Thankfully, this movie is available for free on YouTube, just click this link and prepare to be astounded. Watch it, and come back to The Master Shots as we embark on further discussion, including some legit insider info we learned about the director, cast, and crew.